Learn more about identity and intersectionality in adaptations of "Robinson Crusoe": Annika Scheel's research explores the complex processes of identity in the contemporary robinsonade from an intersectional perspective, focussing on the castaway protagonist(s) and their interactions with the island space as important factors in the identity representation of 21st century audiences.

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Photo: Colourbox.


What does it mean to be a castaway in the 21st- century in an age of digital communication and a global culture grappling with the importance of race, sexuality, and gender?

Drawing on recent theories in adaptation studies, my doctoral research explores the role of identity and intersectionality in the 21st-century robinsonade and examines the legacy of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe in its many adaptations within contemporary popular culture. My dissertation undertakes two tasks: first, it analyses the depiction of identity within popular adaptations of the robinsonade and second, it explores the way adaptations are received by various audiences. My research revolves around the representation of the figure of the castaway protagonist arguing that they serve as an intermediary between the fictive island space and the audience. The castaway, and by extension, the desert island, is indeed a cultural fantasy, a surface onto which all sorts of desires, fantasies and fears can be projected. As a consequence, the castaway can be and has been continuously re-imagined and transformed according to popular discourses of identity, following in the footsteps of recent movements like #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter. Via the analysis of various identities on an intra- as well as an intertextual level, I wish to shed light onto the underlying processes of power, authority and identity construction, as well as the relations between authorship, readership and Defoe’s legacy.

My current thesis statements are as follows:

1. The island identity of the castaway protagonist allows authors and audiences to explore socio-cultural norms and conventions via affirmation or subversion of popular narrative tropes within a confined space.

2. Through the consumption and reproduction of the narrative, audiences can engage in popular discourses, relocating the texts within an intersectional framework.

In relation to these thesis statements, I am investigating in how far discourses prevalent in 20th century robinsonades, like feminist or postcolonial rewritings, are still present and in which ways they might have transformed. Furthermore, the intrinsic power relations within identity representation will be considered in relation to the island narrative.

The primary sources for my thesis have been selected from a vast corpus containing roughly 750 contemporary robinsonades, including novels, films, television shows and video games. The novel as a genre might appear to be the least innovative form of robinsonade – after all, Crusoe’s text is often cited as the first English novel – its role within twenty-first century popular culture nevertheless is interesting.  The rise of self-publishing and online marketing has opened the industry to a much larger group of authors that are able to quickly transform the narrative according to current trends. Film and television provide a valuable audio-visual aspect to the analyses and offer a large variety of audience reviews, reproductions and interactions via memes and GIFs. Lastly, the interactive aspect of video games enables the audience to directly engage with the text, influencing possible outcomes and setting up processes of self-identification between player and protagonist.

Talks and Publications

Colloquium of the Institute of British Studies in Leipzig, 29.6.22 Talk on Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa – Hegemonic Masculinities, Didactics, and the 21st Century Children’s Robinsonade

Workshop Novel Histories: New Approaches to Eighteenth-Century Fiction, Tübingen 21.-22.7.2022 Talk on Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa – Hegemonic Masculinities, Didactics, and the 21st Century Children’s Robinsonade

Subsequent publication in June 2023 in the ZAA with the article Novel Didactics?: Defoe’s Legacy in the Contemporary Children’s Robinsonade

Talk at the ESSE 29.8.-2.9.2022 in the panel Configurations of Friday zu Welcome to the Jungle: The Lemurs of Madagascar (2005) as Representation of the Island Space as Other

Postgraduate Forum of Britcult 17.-19.11.2022, Talk on Island Fantasies - The Body, Desire, and Gender Identity in the 21st Century Robinsonade

Workshop and foundation meeting of the Regionaler Nachwuchsverbund, Halle 5.5.2023, Talk on LOST in Migration: Race, Ethnicity and Space in the ABC Series

Colloquium of the Institute of British Studies in Leipzig, 5.7.23, Talk on Paradise and Providence: The Legacy of Daniel Defoe’s Mercantile Religiosity in BioShock Infinite